Police files tracking Michael Collins’ movements to be sold at auction

·4 min read

A walking stick reputedly owned by Michael Collins and police files tracking his activities during Ireland’s War of Independence are being auctioned.

The century-old artefacts related to the Irish republican leader are among a series of historical lots going under the hammer in Belfast next week.

Auctioneers believe both items could potentially sell for as much as £10,000 each.

Other items in the police and military-themed sale at Bloomfield Auctions in east Belfast include a service medal from the 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin complete with its original box.

A gate from inside one of the H blocks in the Troubles-era Maze paramilitary prison is also going on sale, as are a series of artworks painted by loyalist killer Michael Stone and a miniature carved wooden hurling stick signed by republican prisoners, including former IRA leader Joe Cahill.

Karl Bennett, from Bloomfield Auctions in east Belfast, holds a walking stick belonging to Michael Collins (Liam McBurney/PA)
Karl Bennett, from Bloomfield Auctions in east Belfast, holds a walking stick belonging to Michael Collins (Liam McBurney/PA)

Away from the island of Ireland, the auction also includes two pieces from dining sets – a porcelain cream jug and a spoon – that would have been used by high-ranking Nazis Heinrich Himmler and Joseph Goebbels on their personal train carriages during the Second World War.

There is also a drummer’s belt worn by a Scottish soldier – Captain William McDonald of the 93rd Highlanders – recording every battle he fought in, including during the Crimean War, before his death at the battle of Lucknow in India in 1858.

Going back even further in time, the sale also includes a small bronze penal cross from 1729 – an item designed to be easily hidden from view during a time when the practise of Catholicism was suppressed under the repressive penal laws.

Karl Bennett, the managing director of Bloomfield Auctions, said the Collins pieces are expected to draw particular interest at the sale, which takes place on Tuesday and Wednesday next week.

The gate from inside a H block of the Maze paramilitary prison (Liam McBurney/PA)
The gate from inside a H block of the Maze paramilitary prison (Liam McBurney/PA)

The intelligence reports on Collins, who led the IRA’s fight against British forces in the War of Independence, are contained in a dossier of Royal Irish Constabulary documents that cover the period 1920 to 1922.

“Within those documents we have a plethora of information that was received,” said Mr Bennett.

“It was amazing how good the intelligence was back in 1921. Within those documents we have movements of Michael Collins, we also have (president of the Irish republic) Eamon de Valera accepting the prime minister’s (Lloyd George’s) invitation to meet and de Valera putting out a message to his men to refrain from activities (during peace talks).

“We have Michael Collins being mentioned going up north to stir up strife. We have it mentioned within the documents that if Michael Collins was seen in an area to please arrest this man, as well as a host of other information. It’s a really important piece of history.”

Royal Irish Constabulary documents detailing the movements of Michael Collins in 1921 (Liam McBurney/PA)
Royal Irish Constabulary documents detailing the movements of Michael Collins in 1921 (Liam McBurney/PA)

Mr Bennett said the Collins walking stick, which has a silver collar and tip, is accompanied by a letter of provenance.

“That walking stick Michael Collins actually held, he used it and that’s a really important piece that should end up in a museum, as well as those documents,” he said.

“The Royal Irish Constabulary documents, my estimate on those would be between £4,000 to £6,000 but I wouldn’t be surprised if they hit five figures.

“The same with Michael Collins’ stick, I would estimate £5,000 to £7,000 but I could see it hitting potentially £10,000 with the right bidders behind it.”

A cream jug from the train carriage used by Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels (Liam McBurney/PA)
A cream jug from the train carriage used by Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels (Liam McBurney/PA)

Mr Bennett said the items in next week’s sale originated from a range of sources.

He said those included private collectors and the families of deceased enthusiasts wishing to sell on their loved ones’ collections.

Anyone wishing to buy the Maze prison gate, which comes complete with keys and hinges, will certainly need to think about how to transport it home.

“It’s extremely heavy, as you’d expect,” said Mr Bennett.

For more information visit www.bloomfieldauctions.co.uk

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